18 April, 2008

Aimé Césaire

And always this misdeal to negotiate step by step
stuck as I am with inventing each waterhole.

from "Banal," Noria, 1976, in Collected Poetry (Cal, 1983)

1913-2008 (obit)

One of the 20th Century's major voices died yesterday (bio). Co-founder of the Negritude movement, Césaire's was an anti-colonial voice that insisted on its own particular terms of articulation, its own resistant syntax, rhythms, namings.

Hear the white world
horribly weary from its immense efforts
its stiff joints crack under the hard stars
hear its blue steel rigidity pierce the mystic flesh
its deceptive victories tout its defeats
hear the grandiose alibis of its pitiful stumblings

Pity for our omniscient and naive conquerors!

(from Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, 1947, trans by Clayton Eshleman & Annette Smith)

Lenin, a few years ago, typed up a great snippet (he posted more) from the booklength Discourse on Colonialism (1955):

First we must study how colonization works to decivilize the colonizer, to brutalize him in the true sense of the word, to degrade him, to awaken him to buried instincts, to covetousness, violence, race hatred, and moral relativism; and we must show that each time a head is cut off or an eye put out in Vietnam and in France they accept the fact, each time a little girl is raped and in France they accept the fact, each time a Madagascan is tortured and in France they accept the fact, civilization acquires another dead weight, a universal regression takes place, a gangrene sets in, a centre of infection begins to spread; and that at the end of all these treaties that have been violated, all these lies that have been propagated, all these punitive expeditions that have been tolerated, all these prisoners who have been tied up and "interrogated", all these patriots who have been tortured, at the end of all the racial pride that has been encouraged, all the boastfulness that has been displayed, a poison has been distilled into the veins of Europe and, slowly but surely the continent proceeds toward savagery.

From "A Salute to the Third World / For Léopold Sedar Senghor", Ferraments (CP):
. . .
our Africa is a hand free of the cestus,
it is a right hand, palm forward,
the fingers held tight;

it is a swollen hand,
extended to
      all hands, brown, yellow,
white, to all the wounded hands
in the world.

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